Pandunia - the evenly global helping language

Introduction

Pandunia is an equally global helping language. In this article we tell what makes Pandunia global and equal, why it is like that, and how it could help people of the world to communicate better with each other.

Principles of Pandunia

Pandunia is fair. Everybody has an equal chance of learning and speaking Pandunia well. It is supposed to be the great equalizer — a way of communicating that everybody can use on the same level.

Pandunia is evenly global. It borrows words from from all regions and all cultures of the world. It is the world language that stands for the whole world!

Pandunia is practical. It re-uses things that have already become international, including the basic Latin alphabet and international words from English, Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Chinese and Arabic, among others. That way Pandunia can be used in real international communication right from the start.

Pandunia is simple. In international situations it is best to use plain words, short sentences and simple language because they are much more effective than specialized words, long sentences and complex language. So, let's keep it simple!

How is Pandunia evenly global?

Many people are used to seeing the kind of world map below. It is the famous Mercator projection map. Unfortunately it distorts the land area terribly.

Why is that? The world is a three-dimensional globe and turning it into a flat, two-dimensional map is not easy. Equal-area projections, such as the Equal Earth projection below, show land areas correctly. Compare the sizes of Greenland and Africa in these two maps. In the Mercator projection Greenland appears bigger, but the Equal Earth projection shows correctly that in reality Africa is 14 times bigger than Greenland.

That is the physical world. We live also in a human world, which comprises of nations that are divided by borders. In a normal map of countries of the world, sizes of the countries are defined by their geographic area.

However the map projection below is based on the population of countries, not on their geographic area.

In our opinion the world language should represent the human world. Every part of the world, every culture, should be treated fairly and democratically. The grammar should be easy for all. Areal linguistic characteristics, such as Standard Average European, are not suitable guidelines for the world language. Instead, the grammar should be built from things that are universally known and/or universally considered easy.

Can all languages really be included?

About 6000-7000 languages are spoken in the world today. The figure below shows cumulative distribution of the number of speakers of the 50 most spoken native languages. The figure shows that:

  • 25 percent of all people speak the top-3 languages
  • 50 percent of all people speak the top-13 languages
  • 75 percent of all people speak the top-50 languages

The remaining languages – remember, there are over 6000 of them! – are outside the picture. The curve, which is steep at the beginning, turns virtually into a flat line when it approaches the last language, which is spoken only by a handful of people.

The figure indicates that beyond a certain point including one more language to the mix wouldn't make the interlanguage significantly more international. For example, if the top-50 languages were already included, adding the 51st language wouldn't make much of a difference, because it would increase the coverage from 75.07% to 75.43%.

One can also question the practical implications of including 51 languages versus 50. The increase in coverage would be marginal, only 0.36%, and it would not help the remaining 24.24% of the world who speak other, smaller languages!


Figure. Percentage of world population by language by number of native speakers.

The vocabulary of Pandunia is based on the most spoken languages. They cover all continents and all major modern cultures of the world. They also have a lot of international words in common with less spoken languages. That's why Pandunia-like words can be found also in smaller languages.

Cultures of the world

Hartmut Traunmuller divided the world into four major cultural spheres in his article A Universal Interlanguage: Some Basic Considerations. The languages within a certain cultural sphere share words (loan words and translated loan words) and cultural concepts.

  1. The Western (or the European) cultural sphere
    • This sphere covers all of Europe, Americas, Australia and various smaller regions.
    • Languages of the West have been influenced greatly by Greek and Latin and in modern times by French and English.
  2. The Afro-Asian (or the Islamic) cultural sphere
    • This group includes languages of areas where Islam is the main religion.
    • It spans from the Atlantic coast of Africa to the islands in the Pacific of Indonesia and the Philippines.
    • The languages of this cultural sphere are influenced by Persian and especially Arabic, which is the language of Quran, the holy book of Islam.
  3. The South Asian (or the Indian) cultural sphere
    • This sphere covers the very populous subcontinent of India, Indochina and more
    • The classical language of this group are Sanskrit, Tamil and Pāli
    • The Indian vocabulary has been spread by Hinduism and especially Buddhism in all directions in Asia and elsewhere.
  4. The East Asian (or the Chinese) cultural sphere
    • This culturel sphere grew around ancient China, the Middle Kingdom
    • All languages of East Asia are saturated by loan words from Chinese.
    • The biggest modern Chinese language, Mandarin, competes for the title of the most spoken language in the world today.

The cultural spheres are roughly outlined in the picture below.

Languages of the world and world languages

It is estimated that over 6000 different languages are spoken in the world. Some languages are spoken by many while others are spoken by only a few. Native and non-native speakers of the five most widely spoken languages together add up to more than half of the total population of the world. It is impossible to include all languages into the construction of a world language because of their great number. The number of source languages should be manageable for one person to work with.

So, which languages should be taken in?

Power Language Index (PLI) provides an answer to this question. It is a tool for comparing efficacy of languages that has been created by Ph.D. Kai L. Chan. It compares languages on how well they provide to a speaker the following five opportunities:

  1. Geography: The ability to travel
  2. Economy: The ability to participate in economic activities
  3. Communication: The ability to participate in dialogue
  4. Knowledge and media: The ability to consume knowledge and media
  5. Diplomacy: The ability to engage in international relations

Chan builds a ranking of languages based on a combination of the above-listed opportunities. This ranking is used as a reference in Pandunia.

The main source languages for Pandunia

Most Pandunia words are borrowed from the following 14 widely spoken languages. The languages are selected so that they represent different language families, different geographical regions and different cultures.

The following table is ordered by the rank in the Power Language Index. The numbers of speakers are from the Power Language Index and the Wikipedia.

Language Native speakers Non-native speakers PLI ranking Cultural sphere
English 446 million 510 million 1 Western
Mandarin Chinese 960 million 178 million 2 East Asian
French 80 million 192 million 3 Western
Spanish 470 million 70 million 4 Western
Arabic 295 million 132 million 5 Afro-Asian
Russian 150 million 115 million 6 Western
Hindi-Urdu 442 million 214 million 8 Indian & Afro-Asian
Japanese 125 million 1 million 9 East Asian
Portuguese 215 million 32 million 10 Western
Malay 77 million 204 million 14 Indian & Afro-Asian
Korean 80 million 1 million 16 East Asian
Bengali 210 million 19 million 30 Indian & Afro-Asian
Swahili 20 million 80 million 37 Afro-Asian

The numbers make it clear that Mandarin Chinese is by far the largest language by number of native speakers, while English is the language with the greatest number of second language speakers. Both of them are spoken by over one billion speakers in total. However they are followed by languages, whose speakers are also counted in hundreds of millions.

Spelling and pronunciation

The most widely used alphabet

There are many writing systems in the world today but only a handful of them are international. The most popular writing systems are the Roman alphabet, the Cyrillic alphabet, the Arabic script and the Chinese pictographic symbols.

Only the Roman alphabet has become truly global. Most languages of Europe, the Americas and Africa are written in the Roman alphabet. Also several notable languages in Asia, including Turkish, Malay and Vietnamese, are written in the Roman alphabet.

Therefore the Roman alphabet is the obvious choice for the international language.

Only five vowels

According to chapter 2 of The World Atlas of Language Structures, the vowel inventories in world's languages are categorized by size as follows:

  • small: 2-4 vowels
  • average: 5-6 vowels
  • large: 7-14 vowels

Pandunia has only five pure vowels: a, e, i, o, u. The number is approximately the same as the global average. In this respect, Pandunia is close to languages like Spanish and Japanese as both have a system of five vowels.

Examples of large vowel inventories include English (12 vowels) and Mandarin (9 vowels).

Common consonants

According to chapter 1 of The World Atlas of Language Structures, the consonant inventories in world's languages are categorized by size as follows:

  • small: 6-14 consonants
  • moderately small: 15-18
  • average: 19-25
  • moderately large: 26-33
  • large: 34 or more consonants

Pandunia has only 20 consonants so its consonant inventory is average in size.

English and Mandarin, for example, have much bigger consonant inventories. Most consonant letters are pronounced in the same way in all three languages. The table below shows what consonant sounds correspond to each other in Pandunia, English and Mandarin. Sounds that are present in English or Mandarin but not in Pandunia are inside parenthesis.

Pandunia English Mandarin
Nasals m n (ng) m n (ng) m n (ng)
Stops p b t d k g p b t d k g p b t d k g
Liquids l r j v l r y w l r y w (yü)
Sibilants s z x s z sh (zh) s z* x (sh)
Fricatives f h f h (v th th) f h
Affricates c j ch j c j (ch zh q)

Almost universal letter-to-sound correspondence

Pandunia's assigns letters to sounds in an almost universal way. Most letters correspond to roughly the same in Pandunia and in other languages that use the Latin alphabet in their spelling or as their standard method of Romanization. For example, 19 letters correspond to the same sounds in Pandunia and English and only five are used differently. In addition, two English letters (w and q) are not used in Pandunia.

The pronunciation of Pandunia letters is compared to their pronunciation in other languages in the table below.

  • Letters that correspond to approximately similar sounds in Pandunia and the compared language are listed in the column "Similar". For example the English g is considered similar to the Pandunia g though in English there is the 'soft g' (as in gel) besides the more common 'hard g' (as in get).
  • Letters that correspond usually to different sounds in Pandunia and in the compared language are listed in the column "Different".
  • Pandunia letters that are not used in the compared language are listed in the column "Not used".
Language Similar Different Not used
Pandunia a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u v x y z
Indian Romaniz. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u v y z x
Malay a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u y z v x
Hausa a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u y z v x
Chinese Pinyin a b c d f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u x y e z v
Swahili a b d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u v y z c x
Japanese Romaji a b d e g h i j k l m n o p s t u y z f r v c x
Portuguese a b d e f g i k l m n o p r s t u v x z c h j y
English b d f g h i j k l m n o p r s t v y z a c e u x
French a b d e f g i k l m n o p s t u v y z c h j r x
Spanish a b d e f g i k l m n o p r s t u v y c h j x z
German a b d e f g h i k l m n o p r s t u v c j x y z
Vietnamese a b e g h i k l m n o p r t u v y c d s x f j z

In summary, most letters correspond to the same sounds in Pandunia as in other languages, and most differences are about letters c, j, x, y and z. Special attention needs to be given to c and x.

Why is the letter X pronounced like SH?

Pandunia follows the phonetic principle. One letter represents exactly one sound, and one sound is written with exactly one letter.

Traditionally there isn't any dedicated letter for the sound /ʃ/ in the Latin alphabet. This sound is frequently written by the letter combination sh in English. Other languages use different letters and letter combinations, such as ch in French, sch in German, sj in Swedish, sz in Polish, š in Czech and ş in Turkish.

However, there is a handful of languages that use the letter x for the sound /ʃ/. Basque and Maltese do it without exception. Portuguese and Catalan are less consistent, but their x stands for /ʃ/ frequently. For example, the Pandunia word xampu' is written almost exactly like in Portuguese. It means 'shampoo'.

In the Chinese Romanization systen, Pīnyīn, the letter x stands for /ɕ/ which is almost similar to /ʃ/. Pandunia has borrowed many words with x from Chinese, for example xim, xin and xuxe.

Why is the letter C pronounced like CH?

Actually there are several languages where C is pronounced like English CH, including Malaysian, Indonesian, Hausa, Oromo and Rwanda. In Italian, when C is followed by E or I, it is pronounced /tʃ/. This pronunciation is present in English loan words from Italian, such as cello and cappuccino.

In addition, c is pronounced like ts in cats in many languages, including Polish, Czech, Hungarian and sometimes German. This pronunciation comes from Medieval Latin. The pronunciation of c is similar also in the standard Romanization of Mandarin Chinese.

On the other hand, the letter c doesn't stand for any unique sound in English. The hard c can be replaced by k and the soft c by s. So the letter c is free to be reassigned to some useful sound.

Easy syllable structure

A syllable consists of one core vowel and possible consonants. In some languages syllables are simpler than in others. For example in Japanese the heaviest syllables consist of an initial consonant, a vowel and a final nasal consonant. This is why Japanese sounds light and vocalic. In English, on the other hand, it is possible to cram many consonants in one syllable, as in "strict sprints".

Pandunia is somewhere in the middle. Most syllables are simple a-consonant-and-a-vowel pairs but also more complex syllables are allowed, especially in internationally known technical terms. For example kristal (crystal) is a complex word by Pandunia standards.

There are two ways to simplify words that are too complex for the international language:

  1. Select a simpler variant of the same word from another language. For example, the English word project ends in two consonants but the same word in Portuguese is projeto.
  2. Break the consonant clusters by adding vowels. For example, the English word sport is too complex but the same word in Portuguese is esporte, which breaks the difficult consonant clusters in the beginning and end by additional vowels.

Regular spelling

English spelling is notoriously irregular. Pīnyīn was created more recently, in the 1950s, but unfortunately it also has some irregularities, simply because there are more sounds in spoken Chinese than there are letters in the Roman alphabet. Still, in comparison to English, Pinyin is very regular. For example the English rhymes my, sigh, lie, and rye would be written in Pīnyīn mai, sai, lai, rai. It is as simple as that!

Pandunia can be spelled regularly because it has fewer speech sounds (24) than there are letters in the Basic Latin alphabet (26). The alphabet of Pandunia is:
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u v x y z

Pandunia has almost perfect letter-to-sound correspondence. One letter stands for one sound only. One sound is represented by exactly one letter. Every word is pronounced as it is written.

Regular accent

Pandunia has a regular accent. The place of the stress is decided by one simple rule: the last vowel of the word stem is stressed. It goes like this:
hálo! mé vól lóge la bón dúnia báxe.
(Hello! I want to speak the good world language.)

Regular stress is easier to learn and more comfortable to use than irregular and unpredictable stress. English is an example of a language with irregular stress. In a written expression like "totally fantastic personnel", nothing shows that each word has the stress on a different syllable. If the stress was marked on the vowels, it might look something like this: "tótally fantástic personnél".

Pandunia doesn't have tones either. Chinese, on the other hand, is a tonal language. That's why texts in romanized Chinese are loaded with accent marks, as in wǒmen yě huì shuō zhōngguòhuá. They are there to mark tones. In Standard Chinese, each syllable is pronounced in one of the four tones or in the unmarked neutral tone.

Tones are hard to learn for people who are not used to them. Variable stress is hard to learn for people who are used to fixed stress. Neither word tone nor variable word stress are necessary in the world language.

The simplest structure

Languages can be categorized by two parameters:

  • Is a single word made of few or many parts?
  • Are those parts easy to separate or fused together?

The widely spoken languages can be categorized into four types according to these parameters.

  1. Analytic languages – Words are made of few, distinct parts.
    • Mandarin Chinese
  2. Analytic fusional languages – Words are made of few, fused parts.
    • English
  3. Agglutinative languages – Words are made of many, distinct parts.
    • Japanese, Malay-Indonesian, Telugu
  4. Synthetic fusional languages – Words are made of many, fused parts.
    • Spanish, Portuguese, French
    • German, Russian
    • Hindi-Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi
    • Arabic, Hausa

Usually languages are a mixture of different types. For example, in English the plural can be formed in several different ways. Many a cat is an analytic phrase that consists of three separate words. Cats is an agglutinative word that consists of two distincts parts, cat and -s. Leaves is a fused word that consists of two parts, leaf and -s.

Pandunia is an analytic language. Its words consist of few parts and they are clearly separable. This is a good thing because it makes the language easy to learn and use in comparison to languages where words are longer or fused of many parts.

Parts of word

The word is made of a root and optional affixes, which are attached to the root word. Prefixing languages put affixes before the root and suffixing languages put affixes after the root. Some languages put affixes on both sides or even inside the root. Usually languages use several different ways. For example English uses both prefixes (ex. un-kind) and suffixes (ex. kind-ly).

Suffixing languages are the most common type. Indo-European languages, Telugu, Chinese and Japanese are mostly suffixing.

Chinese has no inflection. Words are only combined into larger words. Some words have a special meaning when they appear as a part of a larger word. These so called bound morphemes are much like suffixes.

English, Spanish and Hindi-Urdu use mainly root and affix system. The meaning is changed by adding dependent parts before and after the root. For example "booklets" consists of root book and affixes -let (which adds meaning of smallness) and -s (which adds plural meaning). Most affixes can't stand alone, they always need to be fixed to a root.

Arabic uses transfixes. The root consists of (usually three) consonants and it is changed by inserting a pattern of vowels between them. Arabic also has many prefixes and suffixes for creating additional words.

Pandunia uses the simple root-and-affix system. Its words can consist of many, distinct parts that are easy to separate. Everybody can create new words easily.

Word orders

Different word orders are used in the languages of the world. Some of the most important areas of word order are:

  • Sentence structure. Order of subject (S), verb (V) and object (O) in a transitive clause. The most common sentence structures are subject–verb–object (SVO) and subject–object–verb (SOV).
  • Order of numeral and noun. Cardinal numeral can be either before (NumN) or after (NNum) the noun.
  • Order of adjective and noun. There are two possible orders
    1. Adjective is before the noun (AdjN)
    2. Adjective is after the noun (NAdj)
  • Order of adposition and noun.
    1. Prepositions are before the noun.
    2. Postpositions are after the noun.
  • Order of relative clause and noun. The relative clause can be either before (RelN) or after (NRel) the noun.

The table below shows what are the typical, unmarked word orders in important world languages.

Language Sentence Numeral Adjective Relative Adposition
English SVO NumN AdjN NRel pre
Chinese SVO NumN AdjN RelN post
Spanish SVO NumN NAdj NRel pre
Hindi-Urdu SOV NumN AdjN RelN post
Arabic VSO both NAdj NRel pre
Russian SVO NumN AdjN NRel pre
French SVO NumN NAdj NRel pre
Indonesian SVO NumN NAdj NRel pre
Japanese SOV NumN AdjN RelN post
Swahili SVO NNum NAdj NRel pre

Also other word orders are possible. For example in English, which normally uses the SVO order in declarative sentences, the object can be fronted in interrogative and relative clauses, as in "What did you say?"

The previous table shows that the major languages don't agree about word orders. Pandunia supports several word orders but the default is to use the most common ones: subject–verb–object (SVO), numeral before the noun, adjective before the noun, relative clause after the noun and prepositions.

How Pandunia compares to pidgins and creoles?

Pidgins and creoles are natural contact languages. Pandunia is a constructed contact language. So the answer is no, Pandunia is not a real pidgin or a creole. However, it is characterized by many of the same features as pidgins and creoles.

The following is a list of characteristic features of pidgins and creoles that apply for Pandunia too.

  1. Lack of grammatical complexity
  2. No definite or indefinite article
  3. Omission of the copula 'be'
  4. Tense, aspect, modality and negation are not part of the verb.
  5. Passive structures are not used.
  6. Lack of morphological complexity
  7. Nouns and pronouns are not inflected
  8. Verbs are not inflected and tense is marked by separate words
  9. Semantic transparency
  10. Meaning of a word can be determined from the meanings of the parts of which the word is built.
  11. Reduced vocabulary
  12. Multifunctional words
  13. All-purpose prepositions
  14. Simple phonology
  15. Avoid difficult sounds.
  16. Use mostly simple syllable structures.
  17. Prefer short words.
  18. Tone is not used to distinguish words.

Easy sentences

In this section we will compare the sentence structures of Pandunia with English and Chinese, the two most widely spoken languages of the world.

The normal sentence word order is subject–verb–object – just like in English and Chinese.

English:   I love you, and you love me.
Pandunia:  mi ama tu, tu ama mi.
Chinese:   Wǒ ài nǐ, nǐ ài wǒ. (我爱你,你爱我。)

The auxiliary verb be is used when the object of the action comes first in the sentence. (This is the so called passive sentence.)

English:   Apples were eaten.
Pandunia:  aple bei yam.
Chinese:   Píngguǒ bèi chī le. (苹果被吃了。)

bei is a loan word from Standard Chinese, but it is also close to some uses of English "to be".

English:   It can not be eaten.
Pandunia:  ye no bil bei yam.
Chinese:   Tā bù néng bèi chī. (它不能被吃。)

Like Chinese, Pandunia doesn't mark verbs with a word like "to".

English:   I invite him to drink coffee.
Pandunia:  mi cing ye yam kafe.
Chinese:   Wǒ qǐng tā hē kāfēi. (我请他喝咖啡。)

In Pandunia and Chinese, nouns can be singular or plural depending on surrounding words. There's no plural ending like -s in English. Also verbs are not conjugated. One word, si, is used instead of am, is, are, was, were...

English:   It is an apple.
Pandunia:  ye si aple.
Chinese:   Tā shì píngguǒ. (他是苹果。)

English:   They are apples.
Pandunia:  yemon si aple.
Chinese:   Tāmen shì píngguǒ. (他们是苹果。)

World words

Most Pandunia words are already international – at least in some part of the world! The three key principles for selecting words for Pandunia are:

  • Equality : Words are be borrowed equally from different regions of the world. In practice it means that Pandunia borrows words from the languages of Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.
  • Prevalence : Widely spread words are favored. The more people know the word the better.
  • Simplicity : Word forms with easy pronunciation are favored.

Imitative words are global

Words whose sound imitates the sound of the associated thing or action are remarkably similar from language to language. The cat says miaow, the goat says bee, and people say yum when they eat and atchoo when they sneeze everywhere in the world. The words are not always exactly the same in every language but they are close enough.

This is why Pandunia has for example these basic global words:
mau – cat
behe – goat
meme – sheep
mumu – cow
yam – to eat aci – to sneeze
ronfi – to snore

However, most words are not global. Therefore it is necessary to establish a systematic method for word adoption.

Word selection method

Because the languages constantly influence each other, there are a lot of international words. Some words are international in the West, some in the East, and some are even global. Pandunia attempts to use as international, intercontinental and global words as possible.

Words that are specific to a certain culture shall be adopted from languages that best represent that culture.

Words for objects of nature (for example plants and animal species) shall be adopted from a language that is spoken in the area where that object is found.

So the first question is, does the word belong to a certain region or culture?

Yes. → Select the word from languages that are important in that region or culture.
No. → Use the following word selection method.

  1. Collect translations for a given word in the 12 languages or language teams that are listed below by using electronic or printed dictionaries, Wiktionary, Google Translate, or some other tool.
  2. Identify groups of similar words.
    • Similar words can be historically related
    • or they can sound alike by coincidence.
  3. Select the most international group of similar words.
    • The more international, the better.
    • The best words are cross-cultural.
    • If there's no cross-cultural word, select the one that is known by the greatest number of 1st language speakers.
  4. Select a word form that represents the group well and fits into Pandunia well.

The list of source languages for general words:

  1. English
  2. French
  3. Spanish and/or Portuguese
  4. Russian
  5. Arabic
  6. Mandarin
  7. Japanese
  8. Korean and/or Vietnamese
  9. Hindi and/or Urdu
  10. Bengali
  11. Malay
  12. Swahili

Normally a word appears in at least two of the source languages. In case there isn't a common word, partially similar words can be selected. Only in the last resort a word from only one language can be accepted.

The figures below show how Pandunia words are distributed by source languages.


Figure. Bar chart showing the percentage of words similar in the source languages and Pandunia.


Figure. Bar chart showing distribution of influence from the main source languages to Pandunia.

Example: Selecting the word for "language"

First possible candidates are searched from widely spoken languages. The search reveals that there are several words that are international.

  • Arabic لغة /luɣa/ is also known in Swahili lugha. It is also known in Persian and Turkic languages but with the meaning "dictionary".
  • Persian زبان /zæba:n/ has spread to Urdu and Punjabi among others.
  • Latinate lingua is found in the Romance languages and it has spread to most European languages in words like linguistics and multilingual.
  • Indo-Aryan भाषा /bʱaʂa/ is used in Hindi and Bangla and it has spread to several neighbouring languages including Telugu, Thai and Indonesian.

The most prevalent of these words is /bʱaʂa/. It is recognised nearly everywhere in India, Indochina and Malay archipelago, which are some of the most densely populated areas in the world.

Language Spoken word Written word
Hindi bʱaʂa भाषा
Punjabi bʱaʃa ਭਾਸ਼ਾ
Gujarati bʱaʃa ભાષા
Marathi bʱaɕa भाषा
Bangla bʱaʃa ভাষা
Telugu baʃa భాష
Thai pʰa:sa: ภาษา
Indonesian bahasa bahasa
Javanese basa basa
Sundanese basa basa

As you can see, the same word is written and pronounced differently in different languages. This is typical of international words. They get adapted in almost every language to their own spelling system. Likewise it is necessary to adapt this word to the spelling and pronunciation rules of Pandunia. So the Pandunia word for language becomes baxa.

Western words

Typically Western words have this structure: prefix + root + suffixes. Usually the root ends in a consonant.

For example in Spanish, the root cort- (short) can be combined with affixes to produce different kinds of words.

  • Adjectives: corto (masc.), corta (fem.)
  • Noun: cortedad
  • Verb: acortar

Also English uses comparable affixes.

  • Adjectives: short, shorter, shortest
  • Nouns: shortness, shorty
  • Verb: shorten

Pandunia borrows the roots of Western words. The goal is to select a form that sounds familiar to speakers of as many languages as possible.

Pandunia word English Portuguese Spanish French German Russian
korte short curto corto court kurz korotkiy
nove new novo nuevo nouveau neu novîy
marce march marcha marcha marche Marsch marš
poste post (mail) (postal) posta poste Post počta

Sinitic words

Sinitic words are words from Middle Chinese that are used today in languages of East Asia, including Chinese languages, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese. Sinitic words are single-syllable words or compounds of syllabic elements.

Middle Chinese had lexical tone. Today Chinese languages and Vietnamese have tones but they are not the same as in Middle Chinese. Japanese and Korean are not tonal languages so they have ignored the tones. Also Pandunia ignores the tones. (To ignore the tones is about the same as to ignore the stress accent or pitch accent of other source languages.)

Middle Chinese had unreleased stop consonants, which are usually written -p, -t and -k. Cantonese, Vietnamese and Korean keep them mostly as they were. Mandarin has deleted them. Japanese has added a vowel to ease pronunciation. Pandunia keeps the final stops and adds a normal PoS suffix.

Pandunia root Cantonese Mandarin Japanese Korean Vietnamese
sui sui shuǐ sui su thuỷ
jung zung zhōng chū jung trung
xim sam xīn shin sim tâm
mun mun mén mon mun (môn)
duge duk doku dok đọc
cute cœt chū shutsu chul xuất

Applying the suffixes of Pandunia to Sinitic roots may seem unusual at first, but it is nothing new – Sinitic words are already inflected in Korean!

Examples of global words

bir 'beer'

Language Spoken word Written word
German bi:ɐ Bier
English biəɹ beer
French biɛʁ bière
Italian birra birra
Turkish bira bira
Arabic bi:ra بيرَه
Amharic bira ቢራ
Rwanda bjere byere
Swahili bia bia
Hindi bijər बियर
Indonesian bir bir
Japanese bi:ru ビール
Wu bi 啤(酒)
Mandarin pʰi 啤(酒)

cai 'tea'

Language Spoken word Written word
Mandarin tʂʰa
Japanese tʃa
Korean tʃʰa
Vietnamese tʂa trà
Bangla tʃa চা
Hindi tʃay चाय
Russian tʃaj чай
Turkish tʃay çay
Swahili tʃai chai
Arabic ʃay شاي
Portuguese ʃa chá

motor 'motor'

Language Spoken word Written word
Spanish motor motor
English moʊtəɹ motor
French motœʁ moteur
Russian motor мотор
Turkish motor motor
Persian motor موتور
Arabic mutu:r موتور
Hindi motər मोटर
Japanese mo:ta: モーター
Mandarin muotuo 摩托

Examples of semiglobal words

bandera 'flag'

Language Spoken word Written word
Portuguese bɐndeiɾa bandeira
Spanish bandeɾa bandera
English bænəɹ banner
French baniɛʁ bannière
Indonesian bəndera bendera
Amharic bandera ባንዴራ
Swahili bandera bandera
Kongo bande:la bandêla

kamiza 'shirt'

Language Spoken word Written word
Italian kamitʃa camicia
Spanish kamisa camisa
Portuguese kɐmiza camisa
French ʃəmiz chemise
Arabic qami:s قميص
Amharic ʃəmiz ሸሚዝ
Urdu qami:z قمیض
Hindi qami:z क़मीज़
Indonesian kəmedʒa kemeja
Filipino kamisa kamisa

Examples of South Asian words

pal 'fruit'

Language Spoken word Written word
Hindi phal फल
Bangla phal ফল
Telugu phalamu
Tamil palam பழம்
Thai phon(la) ผน(ละ)

Examples of East Asian words

lai 'come'

Language Spoken word Written word
Mandarin lai 来 (lái)
Wu
Cantonese loi
Vietnamese la:i lại
Korean
Japanese rai

Examples of words from Arabic

dua 'prayer'

Language Spoken form Written word
Arabic duʿa: دعاء
Persian doʕa دعاء
Turkish dua dua
Kazakh duɣa дұға
Indonesian doa doa
Hausa adduʕa addu'a
Yoruba adura àdúrà

kitabe 'writing'

This word means book in many languages. The original Arabic word means all kinds of writing.

Language Spoken form Written word
Arabic kita:b كتاب
Persian keta:b کتاب
Urdu kitab کتاب
Hindi kitab किताब
Indonesian kitab kitab
Turkish kitap kitap
Oromo kita:ba kitaaba
Swahili kitabu kitabu

Examples of scattered words

jen 'person, people'

The word jen is combined from several unrelated sources.

  • East Asia
    • Mandarin 人 /ʐən/ (person)
    • Wu 人 /zəŋ/ (person)
    • Japanese 人 /dʒin/ (person, in some compounds)
  • the West
    • French "gens" /ʒã/ (people)
    • Portuguese "gente" /ʒenti/ (people)
  • South Asia
    • Hindi जन /dʒan/ (person, people)
    • Bengali জন /dʒon/ (counter word for people)
    • Thai ชน /t͡ɕʰon˧/ (person, people)
    • Khmer ជន /cɔ:n/ (person, people)

kamar 'room, chamber'

  • the West
    • Italian "camera" (chamber)
    • Portuguese "câmara" (chamber)
    • Spanish "cámara" (chamber)
    • German "Kammer" (chamber)
  • South Asia
    • Hindi कमरा /kəmra:/ (room)
    • Urdu کمرا /kəmra:/ (room)
    • Malay "kamar" (room)

kata 'to cut'

  • the West
    • English "cut" /kʌt/
  • South Asia
    • Hindi काटना /katna:/
    • Bengali কাটা /kata/
  • Africa
    • Swahili "-kata"
  • East Asia
    • Wu Chinese 隔 /kɐʔ/
    • Vietnamese "cắt" /kɐʔt/

amir 'order, command'

Originally an Arabic word, it has been borrowed to the West as "emir" (commander of an Islamic nation) and "admiral" (commander of the navy).

  • Africa and Asia
    • Arabic أَمْر‎ /ʾamr/
    • Persian امر‎ /amr/
    • Turkish "emir"
    • Swahili "amri"
    • Hausa "umarni"
  • the West
    • English "emir" and "admiral"
    • French "amiral" (admiral)
    • Russian "эмир" (emir)